Georgia Recognizes National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

February 9, 2015

Saturday, Feb. 7 marked the 14th observance of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD), themed “I am my Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper: Fight HIV/AIDS.”

NBHAAD is directed, planned and organized by a group known as the Strategic Leadership Committee, a coalition that partners with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to mobilize communities in an effort to address local epidemics and influence the course of HIV in African American communities across the country.

During NBHAAD, organizers focused their efforts on key cities with the highest HIV/AIDS cases. Atlanta is among the key cities, including Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles and several others.

Georgia’s current health status around HIV/AIDS indicated there were 2,661 new HIV diagnoses in 2013 and 51,510 persons living with HIV in the state. African Americans comprised 66 percent of this population.

“If you compare percentages of new diagnoses that are African American in the new data compared to last year’s report, you will see an increase from 55 percent in 2012 to 67 percent in 2013 data,” said Pascale Wortley, M.D., MPH, HIV Epidemiology Section chief at the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH). “Based on these data sets, it’s evident that the African American population is disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS, demonstrating the need for DPH and our partners to help the public understand how prevention methods can reduce the number of new cases in our state each year.” 

Gregory S. Felzien, M.D., AAHIVS, medical advisor to the Division of Health Protection IDI-HIV unit at DPH, encouraged the community to use the observance to promote HIV prevention practices and reduce the stigma surrounding the disease.

“We must seize this opportunity to break the silence about HIV disease and related risks among the African American community,” said Dr. Felzien. “By promoting routine HIV testing, increasing youth involvement in HIV prevention programming, and identifying barriers to antiretroviral therapy (ART), we can begin to reverse the cycle of this community carrying the burden of this disease.”

Fulton County, which includes Atlanta, bears the greatest challenge with HIV/AIDS, particularly in two populations –men who have sex with men (MSM) and communities of color. This district’s public health leaders are taking a grassroots approach to increasing access to HIV testing and health services.  

“Treatment is prevention,” said Fulton County’s Director of Health Services Patrice Harris, M.D. “Our team takes extraordinary measures to locate and identify clients who need to be linked to care. In collaboration with community partners and businesses, we take free HIV testing and education out of the clinic and into neighborhoods. Aggressive outreach is proving successful in getting more of our target populations into treatment.”

DPH and the Kaiser Family Foundation are using NBHAAD to further expand the Greater Than AIDS campaign, a collaboration among public and private organizations working to increase knowledge about AIDS and promote actions to prevent the spread of the disease.

“The partnership between the Kaiser Family Foundation and DPH has been very effective at promoting strategic media messages and community outreach work to increase understanding of HIV while promoting actions to stem its spread,” said Tina Hoff,  senior vice president and director, Health Communication & Media Partnerships, Kaiser Family Foundation.  “We are dedicated to providing information to the people of Georgia, but we can’t do it alone. The partnership reinforces the role all Georgians play in addressing the HIV epidemic.”

The Red Pump Project also honored champions in the fight against HIV/AIDS at the inaugural Roaring RED benefit dinner with the coveted Red Pump Award. The Red Pump Project raises awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS among women and girls. DPH’s STD Director, Michelle Allen, was recognized as one of the 2015 Red Pump Award recipients.

“Aside from Michelle’s knowledge and vast experience in the field, she has an ability to connect with those in underserved populations,” said Skyy Banks, Atlanta ambassador for the Red Pump Project. “Sometimes when working with these populations, there is a level of distrust and intimidation; however, Michelle has a unique ability to meet individuals where they are to break down barriers and get them the help they deserve. This definitely made her an exemplary candidate for the Red Pump Award.”

Several NBHAAD events were hosted statewide in support of NBHAAD throughout DPH districts including Cobb-Douglas, Fulton, North Central and East Central and Coastal. Many of these efforts leveraged partnerships with local community organizations and businesses to offer free HIV testing, counseling services, events and even performances.

View to learn more about NBHAAD. To locate services for a free HIV test or to access treatment, visit DPH’s Georgia CAPUS (Care and Prevention in the U.S.) Care Portal at or call the Georgia AIDS/STD Infoline at 1-800-551-2728.

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